Thunder Ridge junior Stetson Moss didn’t wait long to express his enthusiasm about qualifying for Nike Cross Nationals for the second year in a row.
Right after finishing in third in 15:15.2 at Saturday’s championship boys race at Nike Cross Regionals Northwest Championships at Eagle Island State Park, he gave individual champion Evan Holland of Ashland, Ore., a double high-five.
Holland and Moss, along with Borah’s Nathan Green, Snoqualmie (Wash.)’s Joe Waskom and Spokane’s Wil Smith, all claimed the top five spots in Saturday’s championship boys race to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals scheduled for Dec. 1 in Portland.
“I was pretty happy about that,” Moss said. “I didn’t really think about this until about a week ago, but I was going into this race as the top returner (from last year). I was super nervous at the starting line.”
The race had multiple lead changes throughout, so many that Moss said he couldn’t keep up with them.
“Oh my heck, it was so crazy,” Moss said. “It’s not a very wide course. Everyone was jostling for position.”
Moss placed 17th in 15:32.3 at last year’s Nike Cross Nationals. It was his first time there, and he said that experience will help him as he races at Glendoveer Golf Course again.
“I’d like to get top 10,” Moss said. “I think I got into my own head last year, thinking ‘This is the biggest meet I’ve ever been in.’ I didn’t have that great of a race. I feel like I’ll just go out and run fast as I can go this year.”
While the boys race featured three nationally ranked teams in No. 14 Kamiakin (Kennewick, Wash.), No. 22 Central Valley (Vendale, Wash.) and No. 23 Tahoma (Wash.), the girls race was especially stacked. Six nationally ranked teams competed — No. 1 Summit (Bend, Ore.), No. 5 Boise, No. 7 Jesuit (Portland, Ore.), No. 11 North Central (Wash.), No. 16 Hellgate (Mont.) and No. 20 Eagle. Like Moss in the boys race, a District 6 runner came away with a top 10 finish and a spot on the podium in the championship girls race. Skyline sophomore Sariah Harrison placed 10th in 18:03.5, moving up considerably from the first mile where she was in the top 20.
Prior to the second crossing of the ‘beach’ portion of the course, Harrison was next to a girl whose coach said she was currently in 15th. Upon hearing that, Harrison made her move.
“I was in 10th before the hill,” Harrison said Tuesday by phone. “I remember thinking I was not happy with my finish at state. When my coach told me I was in 10th before the hill, I was happy with that. I was just trying to hold my spot.”
Per athletic.net records, Harrison’s finish is the best by a District 6 girl at the NXR Northwest championship race. The previous best was 12th by Madison’s Rachel Morrin in 2015. Harrison’s time was also a new best for her on the Eagle Island State Park course. In September, she ran 18:14.4 for 12th place in the Bob Firman Invitational elite girls race.
“I love that course,” Harrison said. “It is my absolute favorite. I always PR there.”
Skyline placed 11th in the championship girls team standings with 306 points. The Grizzlies were the first District 6 team in recent memory to enter the NXR Northwest championship girls race, and Harrison said all things considered, they were happy with their times and finishes. The downside, however, was knowing it was her last race with the seniors. Harrison said this year’s seniors — with whom she shared in state championship and state runner-up finishes her first two high school seasons — were friends with her before she started high school and helped introduce her to cross-country.
“They’re the group that kinda brought me in,” Harrison said. “Especially with my sister being a senior, just crossing the finish line and knowing we weren’t going to be together next year, that’s gonna be really hard.”
The back-to-back Idaho 4A state champion Idaho Falls boys also competed as a team Saturday, placing ninth with 254 points. Senior Zach Erikson and Mitchell Athay led the way for the Tigers, finishing 19th and 20th with respective times of 15:48.60 and 15:48.90.
Aside from Moss, five other District 6 runners competed in Saturday’s championship races as individuals. Sugar-Salem’s Kooper Williams was 45th in the boys race in 16:09.50, Madison’s Spencer Stutz was 77th in 16:30.20, Salmon’s Andy Gebhardt was 79th in 16:31.70 and Salmon’s John Simmons was 126th in 16:56.90. Shelley’s Karlie Callahan was 80th in the girls race in 19:28.80.